Defensiveness and the Fear of Being Misunderstood

We are born with defense mechanisms. They are in our brain to keep us alive and safe from harm. From babyhood, to childhood and in our teenage years, our parent, parents or guardian are supposed to take care of us and protect us. If they neglect us, we have to find ways to take care of ourselves on our own. If they are abusive, we find ways to keep ourselves as safe as possible. Some behaviors teens, who come from an abusive homes, can develop are: telling lies, manipulating, stealing and fighting.

Some teens with a history of trauma, never outgrow their survival skills and go on to become juvenile delinquents, and later criminals. Others carry with them all the self-protective behaviors they learned from years earlier. While this is understandable, it makes communicating with them difficult. They are constantly watching for signs of disrespect. They fear being misunderstood and misjudged. In short, they are defensive.

Defensive people can be great avoiders. They are very private, and they don’t like to make commitments. They are not good at divulging or sharing intimacy. Another sign of defensiveness is the person who intellectualizes their emotions. They know what’s best, and they know their emotions aren’t like anyone else’s. They have themselves all figured out. These people use their IQ’s to get out of situations in which they feel vulnerable, like being diagnosed with an illness.

Indecisiveness is seen in defensive people. They may not move to make a decision because they want you to make it. They want you to make it to please you, or they don’t want to be wrong. Being wrong to them is a sign of weakness.

Another form of defensive behavior relates to a person’s fear of making a mistake. This may arise from being repeatedly told what to do and what not to do. These people never got the chance to make up their own minds. They may have been continually criticised.

Body language is a nonverbal form of defensiveness. You start to ask your spouse if he or she would spend more time on a certain chore. Your tone of voice is non adversarial, but your spouse jumps immediately to feeling criticised. Though criticism wasn’t the point of your inquiry, they nonetheless cross their arms over their chest.

You can change defensive behavior by hearing the person out. Repeat what you heard them say, and then tell them why you disagree. Calm yourself, and take a breath or two before you speak. Understand that they might have a different perspective and opinion from yours. Most of all, find the source of your defensive behavior.

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